The sentiment among the coaches after Gainesville beat Lanier 2-0 on Friday was that it might not be the last meeting between the two powerhouse programs in Class 6A.
In the second half, Ozmar Marceleno crossed over a defender in the box and found the back of the net with 16 minutes left to play to add a little cushion to the sixth-ranked Red Elephants (12-2-1, 8-1 Region 8-6A) lead en route to victory at City Park Stadium.
With the win by Gainesville, the two programs split the season series with top-ranked Lanier (13-1-1, 9-1) winning 2-0 on Feb. 28 in the first meeting.
And with the region championship still in the air between the two programs with another week left in the regular season, they’re already contemplating the possibility of facing off deep in the state tournament.
With Gainesville’s win, the two programs have locked up the top two spots in Region 8-6A and a home playoff game, but they still have to determine who’s No. 1 going into state.
“I do think we’re strong enough to play again, we’re strong enough to be the two finalists (in state),” Red Elephants coach Elie Viviant said.
The coach of the Longhorns concurred.
“Hopefully, we’ll see them again,” Lanier coach Ted Deppe said.
Leading 1-0 in the second half, it turned into a physical — if not chippy — match in the final 40 minutes.
With both programs having multiple scoring opportunities, Gainesville goalkeeper Wilberth Orellana Torrez had a tremendous match with multiple saves down the stretch.
“He makes one save with his foot and another doing a split (in the second half),” Viviant added.
However, Lanier’s goalkeeper Ben Haynes also played tremendous, saving five shots on goal in just the first half, while playing equally inspired in the second half.
“I’m proud of our guys, they fought hard,” Deppe said. “But (Gainesville) deserves it, they have a good team. We had two shots in a 1-on-1 and shot it right at their keeper. They had a couple opportunities and were able to score.”
After Gainesville’s goalkeeper made a save in the 62nd minute, the Red Elephants pushed the ball down the pitch quickly, setting up Marceleno in a 1-on-1 battle.
Marceleno crossed over his defender, then moved the ball from his right to left foot, sending a rocket shot into the back of the net.
Gainesville’s fans, which there were many, started to celebrate, and in return its defense put up a strong front for the final 15 minutes of the match.
In the first half, the Red Elephants dominated the offensive possession, but Haynes was having an outstanding performance for the Longhorns.
In the 17th minute, Gainesville looked like it was about to get on the board with a swift kick by Hector Aguilar, but Haynes was able to react instantly with a jump straight up to deflect the shot and keep the game scoreless.
The Red Elephants got on the board less than 10 minutes later when Pedro Jose Galindo got possession and used pure speed to get past the last two defenders and boot it in for the score.
In the girls’ match, Lanier won 4-1.
Up next, Gainesville hosts Habersham Central on Saturday at City Park Stadium, then the two clubs play a rematch on Tuesday in Mount Airy.
Lanier will host Shiloh on Tuesday, then visits Jackson County to wrap up the regular season Thursday in Jefferson.